How many of us have the golden opportunity of evangelization laid in our lap, but somehow feel inadequate to the task? How many of us are prepared to witness to our Catholic faith with non-Catholic Christians, or even 'pagans,' entering into sharing our beliefs with people who have non-positive preconceived notions about Catholicism, and don't respond well to arguments about Scripture and theology? The honest answer should be all of us! For, next to personal holiness, sharing our faith is one of the most important endeavors God gives us in this lifetime. Not to make anyone nervous, but it really, really counts how we act and what we say, particularly when people question our motivation for being Catholic.
And the best place to start is strength through shared weakness; otherwise known as humility.
Nothing equals the icebreaker of solidarity in human struggle. When a person knows that we are coming to them in respect of their personhood, regardless of their past, or their current situation, compassionately willing to listen, to be understanding, but also to be honest, this is the first bond in an ongoing dialogue which promises the real possibility for furthering the conversation toward faith, hope and charity in Jesus Christ. When we are seen as a fellow human being first, a fellow faulty person with common struggles and common human weaknesses, only then can we witness to both our healing and growth in virtue, and the Merciful Healer who graces us with virtue and growth in His Abundant Love.
For evangelization starts first with a solidarity of honest human need, and only then moves to the only One who can fulfill what we truly need as beloved of the God of Love.
Addicts and Alcoholics certainly don't need a reminder that they are doing damage to their hearts, minds, bodies and souls. They already know that! What they first need to know is that there are people out there who still see them as human persons with tremendous potential for growth in Life-enhancing activities. People, down on their luck, don't need platitudes or Bible verses; rather, they need to know that we care, and we are praying for them, and that we are looking out for their best interest as best we can do in our own personal setting. After all, the man beaten by the side of the road didn't need a Hallmark card, but a Good Samaritan.
And the Good Samaritan's first endeavor must always be to seek humble solidarity in the shared human experience of all people, especially those who struggle and those who are down on their luck; and even those who say they don't need God, but betray themselves by their interest in what we have to say and what we do.
So, when feeling the surge of inadequacy in opportunities of evangelization, always remember to start by treating the other person as someone of equal dignity, no matter who they are. And don't be surprised if the Holy Spirit steps in and elevates the dialogue through the opening of our humble heart.